Mubadala May Part Ways With Rowlands as Partner in Digital Bank

A digital bank backed by Mubadala Investment Co. is looking to replace the British Rowland family as its founding shareholder, embarking on a rebuild the Abu Dhabi sovereign fund blames on the global pandemic.

Set up in 2018 in Abu Dhabi’s financial hub by Mubadala and a Rowland-owned entity, the Anglo-Gulf Trade Bank was touted as the world’s first digital trade bank, promising to create an online finance platform that would facilitate commerce between the Middle East, the U.K. and Asia. Its headquarters were inaugurated by Britain’s Prince Andrew in 2018 with whom financier David Rowland maintains close ties.

Once planning to open offices in India, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, the bank never fully took off as disruptions caused by Covid-19 strangled global trade, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the matter isn’t public.

The bank told some of its clients last month that it would “cease to offer corporate accounts to clients” following a strategic review and the decision to restructure, according to a letter seen by Bloomberg.

“As an investor in the company, we are working with the regulator as the business looks to bring in a new partner and goes through the process of restructuring,” a spokesman for Mubadala said.

Representatives for the bank and the Rowland family didn’t reply to requests for comment.

Future in Doubt

The aim of the restructuring is to bring in new money to keep the project solvent, according to the people. Should the bank fail to find a new partner, it could eventually be wound down, they said.

Rowland made a fortune buying and selling real estate before moving onto shipping, timber and chemical companies and establishing a family office to manage his wealth and investments for his friends.

His ties with Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, go back decades. The relationship has been subject to controversy, with Bloomberg News reporting last year that some of the work done by Rowland and his private bank ranged from scouting for deals in Zimbabwe to devising a plan for an assault on the financial markets of Qatar.

The Rowlands’ latest investment vehicle, Liwathon Ltd., is registered in Abu Dhabi.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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